Archive for March, 2011

Change of Tones

March 25, 2011

On the way to the beach...

I realise I’ve been a tad quiet of late – Mum has asked me to tone down any negative perceptions I have of the place, given the religious and political climate here, so I guess I’m going by the theory of if you’ve got nothing nice to say then say nothing.  I do however have nice things to say but will keep my more political musings quieter and save them for when we meet and/or the book deal (I jest).

I’ve made a couple of mates who are taking the edge of things – had a fun random night out last night which was well over due.  Started at Thai Snack – the restaurant in the massage parlour and a Doha institution.  As I’ve started knowing my way around and how to give directions people have said  ‘uh! behind Thai Snack – everyone knows where that is!’  Here you do not use street names but ‘landmarks’ – turn at ‘Toys R’Us’ behind Mega Mart, over the road from the Sheraton and all the roundabouts have an English name –  ‘TV’ roundabout is near the Al Jazeera News channels, ‘Decoration’, near a huge tacky home and decorating store and ‘Rainbow’ – has a rainbow arch on it (no gay pride here folks).

We were sat outside near the water feature – lovely outside temperature and had delightful girlie chats about being new to Doha – I being the veteran on 10 weeks.   The three of us had a thai banquet – dumplings, spring rolls, chicken wings (we passed on the chicken anus’s posted on the menu) and a whole baked fish and half a duck – £13 or AU$20 each.

Horse

We had all gone to the beach last weekend.  I had scrawled some directions on a piece of paper when I had been chatting to ‘veteran expat’ about beaches accessible by a normal car.  It went something like take the North road for 40 mins, turn at ‘x’ resort and the beach is to the right – Bob’s your uncle – he was right!  Pristine white sand and clear aquamarine water – temperature was perfect, depth to your arm pits – I was ‘pig in shit’ (apologies for the pork reference).

Beach

So after gorging ourselves on amazing food at Thai Snack we jumped in my mates car and headed for the ‘city’ – via my mates amazing apartment in West Bay overlooking the sea – everyone has a pool but me!

NOT at my Apartment

We headed to the Sheraton; Doha’s oldest hotel and very cool 70’s – I like it.  We thought we may have problems as only one of us had their passport – my passport is with HR at work awaiting my exit visa (see below) and many places won’t let you in without one.  So we rock up to the Irish bar and are given the ’are you hotel guests, are you members, do you have a passport’ line by the doorbitch – on not being able to present said passport it was a repeated ‘sorry it’s Qatari law’ – the colour photocopy would not do.  He was very stern and serious, repeating the ‘Qatari law’ line. He then threw us – ‘but you could try the Latino bar next door’.

Sheraton is the 'sail' type structore on the foreshore.

So apparently ‘Qatari law’ doesn’t apply to the cool ambient Latino bar with the live singer, dancing and cheap cocktails – cool!  So a round of mojitos, a wiggle to some salsa and the obligatory sleazy Columbian saw a couple of hours of old fashioned good fun. The fun of the evening was really in the hilarity of the circumstances you can find yourself in this town – restaurants in massage parlours, bizarre drinking laws, being able to just park anywhere on the footpath.

We were an eclectic bunch – all of us promo girls and new to Doha.  A Nigerian/English, a Singaporean/Malay and an Anglo Australian woman went into a bar…

On the craftyside I now have three solar dyeing bundles heating up on the balcony – tumeric root, eucalyptus and tea and just eucalypt – results in May.  I also played with cold dyeing with bougainvillea flowers and got a lovely pink.

Solar Dyeing Project - Eucalypt

I have officially signed up for another six months starting May 1st.  Figure I need to find out about a Gulf summer for myself – may rue this call.  I am still only a freelancer, so I will become a person with no country of residence as I give up my lovely flat in London (thanks Karen & Rich!) and essentially become a ‘tax exile’.  In order to leave Qatar you must have an exit visa signed by your employer – hence I leave in under a week and have no passport.

Mosque

So, I arrive in London next Thursday to pack up my life, sort out all my paperwork, visit Malta with Joe and Alex and see the Royals wed.  I am liking that my last full day in the UK is the day of the Royal Wedding.  I want to be in the crowd at the Queen Victoria monument, at the end of The Mall, in front of the palace waving a Union Jack as my farewell to Blighty.  She has hosted me well – I’ve had my ups and downs in the UK but London is one damn fine town.

Trafalgar Square & Whitehall from the National Gallery Steps

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Elbows a No Go?

March 12, 2011

General Landscape - D Ring Road

It was International Women’s Day this week and I have been giving much contemplation to the plight of women less fortunate than myself.  Thinking of the freedoms I normally have as a western women and how much the small compromises I am being asked to make out of respect for the local culture annoy me and then comparing these to the plight of those denied an education, in forced marriages and powerless to create their own opportunities.  The least I can do is try to raise a little consciousness.

It’s heating up here – I had two days of toddler and mascot wrangling at work this week – 4000 kids over 2 days.  It was hot work!  At various points I went to strip down a layer – to a tank top – but remembered that this was a no go – especially as it was a work function.  To be fair elbows are ok – upper arms not so much.

Lili and I

I am an angry greeny leftist feminist this week as I see nuclear power plants on the brink of meltdown and contemplate the greed of men.  The earth quake and following tsunami were awful but I can’t stop reflecting on the concepts of Gaia – Mother Earth appears to be one pissed off lady!

Just did a news check – no longer on the brink of a meltdown – we have an explosion at a  nuclear power plant.  C’mon Aussies let’s mine some uranium!  Its 100% safe.

All this has interrupted a lazy weekend, saving Riyals as I wait to hear confirmation of a new contract, whilst planning a small segue to Malta in April.

I’ve been in the hammock reading Tales from the Arabian Nights, listening to my slow day mix, The Velvets, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens and the like.  It’s warm.  The cat is curled up in the bathroom sink.  I contemplate leaving the house but don’t fancy catching cabs – I can’t wait to get a car – the novelty is wearing thin as I feel the limits of my borders as the sun heats up – I’m already walking in the shade!

Must be a Qatar cat thing.

Had a nice birthday – spent way too much money on a spa and massage followed by dinner at the Souk.  All okay – glad it’s over and done with!

Birthday Mocktail

I made my first solar dye jar today – I boiled up turmeric root from the souk, laid the roots on some cloth, bound the cloth up, whacked it in a jar and poured on the dye water – plan is to leave it for either 3 weeks (if I am not coming back) or until I return in May.  Eucalypt and black tea experiments planned. I really want my spinning wheel today – the idleness is wearing thin.

Solar Dye - Day 1 Turmeric

I think I should turn off the TV, crank up some tunes and go back to the hammock…

My Big Feet

March 3, 2011

I’m becoming intrigued by polygamy – It is legal for a man to take up to four wives here.  I asked a very pious colleague of mine, very cheekily, if woman could have more than one husband and he looked completely perplexed.  I did some basic research and it appears to be a sign of prestige – you must be able to afford to keep them all in separate houses and the first wife must consent.

I have discovered that it is much closer to me than I would have thought and am not sure of my thoughts on it – between consenting adults that is.  I appreciate that it is cultural.  We in the ‘west’ would not raise our daughters to be second or third in such a pecking order. As a feminist I have many thoughts on it and I wonder if I am lacking an appreciation or respect of the culture here.  I find this quandary and the subject itself fascinating.

On the other side of the cultural fence I managed to put my big foot in with some ex-pats – must remember that many Americans are on the other side of the religious spectrum and one mustn’t make fun of the Mormons (even though the ‘loaded’ biscuits in Adelaide is a very funny tale).

Hang on – don’t they do polygamy as well? (very pleased to be seeing Big Love on the tele here by the way – Chloe Sevigny they were not).

The weather at the moment is sublime.  High 20’s, if every day was like this i’d be a happy camper.  The bougainvillea is out, there’s a gentle breeze – if only it would last – I know it won’t.  I have been given a tip that in the summer months you turn off the boiler and use the hot tap as the cold and vice versa as the pipes are so hot.  Glad I know this now.

Perfect Day

Still negotiating a second contract – nothing signed – back in Blighty at the start of April.  I am interested in staying: interested in seeing what the summer is like, given that that is all that people here seem to talk about.  I may regret this statement when I’m stuck indoors with air-con at full blast – a weird parallel of an English winter – at least the sky won’t be grey.

I have failed to mention the dust thus far.   Every so often the sky is beige and the air thick with dust – I have been told that so far these have been mild.  I’m being given a serviced apartment so I have it cleaned three times a week – it only takes a day for a noticeable layer to settle.

Much happening in the news.  Gaddafi is one crazy cactus.

I am facing the inconvenience of a birthday far from family and mates – am making the most of it by indulging in a spa and massage followed by dinner at the souk with some work colleagues and knitting folk.  Need to visit the souk to get some fabric and dye stuff – plan to embark on some solar dyeing projects – there’s a little bit of sun about!

Apothecary

I’ll end with cat tale…

I woke the other morning thinking that I might unravel the slippers I was knitting and start anew on larger needles.

Upon walking into my lounge I discover the carcass of my knitting strewn across the room in the cliched zig zag of wool around table legs that can only be caused by a kitten.

Hand spun, dyed and knitted and rescued from a kitten.